Posted on

The paradox of speed

Speed has become a valuable commodity for companies selling a product or delivering a service. In this time conscious age, where everything from same-day delivery and two-minute bedtime stories are in demand, faster has become synonymous with better. People seek faster travel, faster communication, faster meals, and even faster relationships.

The reason supposedly, is to save time. But it also appeals to our sense of urgency: the I-want-it-now syndrome, fueled more by desire to be one of the first to have something, rather than just our impatience.

When radio first appeared, it took 38 years for 50 million people to buy it. TV was gobbled up by 50 million people within 13 years. The World Wide Web captured the 50 million people in four years, iPhone only two years, and Google plus did it in 88 days. By the time Pokémon go hit the market, it sold 45 million apps within a few weeks – although by then, saving time couldn’t have been the motivator by any stretch of the imagination.

By then we were hooked on speed for the sake of speed itself. Who could bear to wait a week for a letter to arrive or a mail-order product? How many people would opt for an oven over a microwave, a lengthy book over a brief e-book or blog article – or even an email over a text message?

Speed is king. And some claim that technology, which makes it all possible, has increased personal productivity to the nth degree. In a perfect world they could have been right. But the reality is that faster cars met with modern-day traffic, gridlock, construction, detours, and longer travelling distances – to the point that we are spending as much time in our vehicles as we did 100 years ago. Where is the productivity increase?

Email is definitely faster than a letter; but 1000 emails are slower than a letter, at least in terms of the writing part – so how could it be a timesaver? For example, in one recent survey, the workers questioned in a poll estimated they spend 6.3 hours a day checking emails, with 3.2 hours devoted to work emails and 3.1 hours to personal messages. Sure, it’s faster than letters, but not when there is so many of them!

Shopping is supposed to be faster with the advent of Superstores allowing one-stop shopping; but the area that has to be covered, the long wait at the check-out desk, and the time deciding which of the tens of thousands of products to buy offsets any time saved.

As far as automation is concerned, washing machines have sure made washing clothes faster; but the problem is that we now have more clothes to wash and we wash them more often.

We can make friends quicker on the Internet; but the media itself – Facebook for example – is consuming more of our time. And the relationships are shallow.

The net result seems to be that we are simply getting the same things done, but at a greater speed. And of course speed can cause stress and anxiety, costly errors, and fractured relationships. If the speed made possible through technology is such a time-saver, where is all the leisure time that was promised to us thirty years ago?

The net time savings seems to be zero; but we do have problems that didn’t exist before, such as the impact of screen time on our attention spans, sleep problems due to sleeping with our smart phones, and lives out of balance because of our addiction to the digital world.

Oh, and we do seem to be spending more time in line-ups, waiting rooms, traffic tie-ups, repair depots, mental health clinics and counselling sessions.





Posted on

How to survive in the digital age of speed.


As the pace of life increases, along with our use of technology and 24/7 connectivity, a blurring of the separation of work and personal time takes place, stress increases, and we feel pressured to steal time from health-giving activities such as sleep, exercise and social relationships.

Here are a few things you might do to alleviate any negative consequences of the digital age of speed in which we now must function.

Place boundaries on your working hours.

Make sure your working hours are not the same hours as our family time or personal time. In a recent issue of Scientific American Mind, it was suggested that the single biggest stressor is a failure to unplug from the always-connected workplace.

Build structure into your day.

Most of us are now connected 24/7 and vulnerable to incessant interruptions. Checking and responding to email or messaging a maximum of four or five times a day instead of 40 or 50 times a day. And batch similar tasks together when you perform them. For example make phone calls, write email messages and text in batches to consume less energy and mental fatigue.

Find your “high performance” work area.

Try getting away from your regular work environment for an hour or more each day. I have written in the past about the advantages of working in a coffee shop. The moderate noise level has been found to increase creativity. It also gets you away from an environment that may be triggering bad habits, such as checking email or text messages every few minutes. Many people have what is referred to as a high performance area, which may not necessarily be a coffee shop. So experiment a little.

Exercise at every opportunity.

Exercise, whether morning, noon or night, improves your health as well as your energy level. Simply taking the stairs can increase your energy by 200% for example. Another way of increasing performance might be to use a standing desk for a few hours each day. One pharmaceutical company found that after one month of getting standing desk’s employees were 23% more productive. A sedentary lifestyle, including sitting all day, is a killer.

Make the majority of your goals short range. 

For example, set more 90-day goals and fewer annual goals. This allows for an ever-changing environment, the rapid advances in technology, and the instantaneous influence of social media and so on. Priorities also seem to change more quickly in this digital age of speed.

90 days – three months – provides enough time to accomplish something significant, yet not so short as to be seen as a glorified “to do list. Your 90-day goal could very well lead to an annual goal, while having measurable results in itself. But while working on annual goals, we could deceive ourselves into thinking that a last-minute rush will enable us to achieve the goal.

With shorter goals we are able to adjust or even discover that the goal is impossible or impractical and we would still have most of the year available to re-evaluate and reset our goals.

Many goals don’t take 12 months in the first place, and Parkinson’s Law could take place at the time it takes to achieve the goal could expand to fill the time we have available. Many important goals such as product launches or a sales promotion are time sensitive. If you don’t act now you lose much of their benefit. If you can’t make significant progress in 90 days, you probably won’t do much better in 365 days.

Don’t work exclusively from “To Do” lists.

“To do” lists by themselves, are no longer sufficient since we have now more things to do than we can possibly get done in one lifetime. It’s more important than ever to identify the 20% that represent 80% of the value or significant results, and schedule them in our planner – Blocks of time representing appointments with ourselves to get the most important things done – just like we schedule appointments with other people. Also research shows that deciding in advance when you will do something increases your commitment to do it. There is no real commitment to do tasks on a “To Do” list – especially at any particular time – and your brain picks up on that.

Practice holistic time management.

 Don’t limit yourself to the traditional “get organized, plan, write things down” suggestions of the past. Our body, mind and relationship with nature and our environment all influence our personal productivity as well as our health and well-being.